It is a remarkable visit indeed. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is visiting Bangladesh. Mr. Modi is arguably the most powerful Prime Minister of the India that the British colonial rulers created in 1947. His host is Sheikh Hasina, who is arguably the most powerful Prime Minister of the Bangladesh that was the eastern wing of Pakistan until 1971. Of course, with two parts at the east and west sides of India, Pakistan was the other country that the British created in 1947 in what is still known as the Indian subcontinent.
The democratically elected government that Mr. Modi leads has an absolute majority in the parliament, which quite a few recent governments there did not have. His counterpart in Bangladesh, Ms. Hasina, is a daughter of the founding father of that country. She also leads a government that has absolute majority in the parliament, albeit via a questionable election. More critically, the international politics now is not friendly to military coups, the kind that Ms. Hasina’s country has seen quite a few times; and thus, she is quite safe with her power.
The most remarkable event in the visit is the ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) that is for the transfer of enclaves between the two countries. Here is a section of the border of the two countries showing some enclaves (Old Rangpur – Cooch Behar border: courtesy Google map):
Note that the islands are one country’s territory within the other country. This kind of horrible arrangements made thousands of people essentially stateless in 1947 (more than 100,000 now). Under the LBA, these hapless people would finally live and be able to move freely in their own countries. It is indeed a great accomplishment in the jungle of religious hatred that part of the world has been suffering from over at least a century.
Of course, the hatred was between the two major religious groups there, the Hindus and the Muslims. The division of the subcontinent into two countries was based upon the so-called two-nation theory, whereby the would-be rulers and the supporters of Pakistan considered Muslims to be a separate nation from the Hindus. The implementation of that theory was to make Pakistan the country for the Muslims; the consequent horrifying displacement of millions of people from their homeland was not a consideration.
What was the basis for the two-nation theory? The Muslims were ill-educated, and could not be as powerful in a combined India under fair competitions for positions of knowledge, intellect and power. Because they were mostly converts from the so-called low-caste Hindus and because of their excessive emphasis of learning from religious books, the Muslim population overall was indeed as uneducated as the low-caste Hindus. However, unlike the low-caste Hindus, Muslims had a history of actually ruling India, and certainly they were more powerful to challenge the so-called high-caste Hindus, only if they opted to educate themselves in humanities, science, technology, etc.
An interesting irony was that a lot of the so-called low-caste Hindus actually wanted to be part of Pakistan, as they felt that the Muslims were like them in terms of what kind of treatment they got from the so-called high-caste Hindus. They overlooked the hatred that Pakistan was based upon and the unfairness of seeking positions of power without proper qualifications. The hatred of Pakistan, and subsequently of Bangladesh, has now uprooted them to the extent of their percentages in the population of East Bengal from ~25 in 1947 to ~8 today. (Including other non-Muslims, the percentages would be ~30 in 1947 and ~10 today.)
Of course, separation of the eastern wing of Pakistan to form Bangladesh has amply proven that religion, in this case Islam, could not be a valid basis for nationality.
Narendra Modi is a remarkable example of the advancement of India, in spite of its endemic corruption and the recent growth in Hindu fanaticism. He certainly is a case in point where a poor and low-caste Hindu did not have to convert to a different religion or to have a country for his own kind only. His community was as untouchable as the Muslims and the low-caste Hindus of East Bengal in 1947. His mother was a maid who did menial work at other people’s houses. During his childhood, he used to sell tea in the train for a living. From that kind of a background, he is now one of the most powerful leaders of the world, all due to his quest for learning, hard work and dedication for his motherland.
There is actually an overblown controversy involving Mr. Modi’s background in Hindutwa and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). As the Chief Minister of the state, he got quite a bit of blame for the 2002 Gujarat riots, in spite of ordering shoot-to-kill rioters, in spite of no legal charge against him, and in spite of successfully prosecuting an MLA of his own party for instigating at least one riot.
Mr. Modi does not apologize for being a Hindu. However, he is a Hindu who has been promoting a hygienic India by proclaiming that a toilet is more important than a Hindu temple. In the subcontinental jungle of religious fanaticism, Indians could certainly feel proud that Mr. Modi is not only not dead in the hands of the Hindu fanatics, he is the most powerful Prime Minister of their country. As for religion in politics, Mr. Modi is clear that for his government the Constitution of India is the only holy book of reference. Indians can be proud that, even with a government that has a significant Hindu taint, their country is not being run in the name of any sectarian imaginary supreme almighty. Of course, they need to search their souls as to why there is a Hindutwa-tainted government in an otherwise secular nation.